The Palm Tavern occupies a unique place in the social, political and cultural history of 47th Street in the Bronzeville neighborhood.
Foremost is the Palm Tavern's great musical and cultural heritage, such as its role in the history of jazz and
blues music, is well known around the world. For this reason alone, the Palm Tavern is a world-class tourist attraction and
is considered an important part of the 47th Street Revitalization movement.
But, the Palm Tavern also holds a distinctive
place in the hearts and minds of the residents of Bronzeville. The Palm Tavern has always been more that just a fine restaurant.
Its patrons and its operators have played a vital role in the lives of its neighbors.
There have been only two operators of the Palm Tavern.
First, James "Genial Jim" Knight, the first Mayor
of Bronzeville, opened the restaurant on May 6, 1933 and managed it until 1956. When the place first opened its doors in 1933,
the Chicago Defender called it "the most high classed Negro establishment in America."
Second, Gerri "Mama
Gerri" Oliver who succeed Mr. Knight in 1956 and still runs the operation. As nearly everyone in the neighborhood knows,
"Mama Gerri" is longtime owner of Gerri's Palm Tavern, a fabled bar that stands across the street from where the
old Regal Theater used to be. After shows at the Regal, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Muddy Waters, Quincy Jones, James Brown
and practically every other star of black music eventually found his way to Gerri's place for food, drink, conversation and,
of course, music on the jukebox.